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Federal arson, conspiracy charges for Pennsylvania ironworkers

A Pennsylvania federal prosecutor's office declined to say whether wiretaps or wired informants were used in the investigation of an ironworkers union in the Philadelphia area. Evidence gathered over the course of three years has been used to bring federal charges against 10 members of Ironworkers Local 401. Two of the accused individuals are business officials for the union.

Reportedly, some of the men facing charges were quoted in the nearly 50-page indictment, which includes allegations of arson, racketeering, assault, conspiracy and property damage. Prosecutors claim that crimes were committed in 11 incidents up until October 2013.

According to authorities, members of the union were promised special job assignments for creating so-called "goon squads" to intimidate building contractors and coerce them into hiring union workers.

Union members are accused of damaging equipment on job sites and making threats of property damage and violence. Prosecutors claim that the threats sometimes led to attacks.

If investigators used wiretaps and wired informants to obtain evidence, it remains to be proven in court that those methods were legal. In many cases, the only evidence the prosecution has is wiretapped conversations. From a defense perspective, it is important in such cases to explore the pretrial possibility of limiting or excluding wiretap evidence.

In other cases, when wiretap evidence is allowed into court, the authenticity of the content of the evidence may be doubtful. The same doubt may apply to text messages and emails.

Recorded telephone and person-to-person conversations can have very negative consequences for defendants facing federal charges. It is often in the defendant's best interest to explore the legal possibilities of having such evidence limited or excluded from the court record.

Source: lancasteronline.com, "Pa. ironworkers charged with racketeering, arson," Feb. 18, 2014

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